Composer: Antonio Vivaldi (b. 1678 - d. 1741)
Performance date: 08/07/2018
Venue: St. Brendan’s Church
Composition Year: 1705
Recording Engineer: Ciaran Cullen, RTÉ
Instrumentation: 2vn, va, vc
Instrumentation Category:Baroque Ensemble
Instrumentation Other: vn, va, vc, hpd
Westland Baroque (Jenna Ragget, Aisling Lyons [violins], Gabrielle Dikcuite [cello], Matthew Breen [harpsichord]) -
La Follia, or Folia, literally meaning madness, folly,
or empty-headedness, was described in a Spanish dictionary from 1610 as ‘a noisy dance in which many people take
part with instruments’, and which is played so fast that ‘they all seem to be out of their minds’.
This musical phenomenon, which over the course of more than 300 years includes
compositions by at least 150 composers, exists in two forms, as an early
Spanish dance in fast triple time, and as the so-called ‘later Follia’, a
simple fixed melody of sixteen bars in 3/4 time over a standard chord
progression, bearing all the traits of an elegant sarabande.
is hard to say exactly when the later Follia
came into being, but the earliest printed version appeared in a manuscript by
Jean-Baptiste Lully, dated 1672. In 1700, Arcangelo Corelli published his
famous Op.5 violin sonatas, including at the end a set of modern variations on
the “old” Follia theme. Five years
later, just prior to his appointment as maestro
di violino at the Pietà in Venice, Antonio Vivaldi published his Op.1, a
set of twelve trio sonatas for two violins and continuo, and either as a
tribute to Corelli or as some kind of claim to being his equal, Vivaldi
included as the last work a virtuosic set of 19 variations on the Follia theme. Despite never deviating
from the opening key of D-minor or from the 3/4 time signature, Vivaldi manages
to create a work which keeps the audience engaged every step of the way.
could ask what the mystery is behind the appeal for the Follia? Perhaps it can be explained in it’s perfect symmetry,
satisfying the human’s eternal pursuit for balance and harmony, or perhaps it
simply that the Follia is a pleasant
piece of music to listen to, crossing musical genres and equally at home in the
country dance hall as the stately courts.
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